Many Christians or those who identify with Christianity don’t observe the Sabbath. The number one reason that is stated is because Jesus abolished Old Covenant Laws when he died and rose again. Most Christians today view observing feast days and Old Testament Levitical laws and rituals as nullified. They lump the Sabbath in with the rest because it is a clearly celebrated Jewish custom and we don’t see it as a moral law but consider it a ceremonial law. Many will argue that the 10 Commandments are made up of mostly moral, permanent commands and that one, the 4th (keeping the Sabbath), is considered ceremonial and therefore temporary and amoral. The issue here is the type of law we are talking about. There are 2 types and most people don’t fully understand what those two are. The first is God’s Law which are considered permanent. They are the 10 Commandments. The second are the Mosaic Laws and are considered temporary. These are the laws that consist of ceremonial rites that were abolished at the cross. The notion that observing the Sabbath is no longer important is a highly debated area for Christians. Could there be a third option? Rather than discussing it as a ceremonial law, can we look at it as something more? If it was, in fact, just a ceremonial law that would be abolished at the cross, then why would God place it in the 10 permanent laws?
Observing the Sabbath has a cloud of confusion surrounding it because as mentioned above, it can be considered by people as an amoral law, or not a question of wrong or right but more of a preference. Because people have justified it as being ceremonial and amoral, they feel justified in not observing it. I encourage you to think this through a bit. Keeping the Sabbath is one of the major commandments given by God and is part of His permanent laws. It is the 4th commandment. God is a God who values numbers. We do not know exactly why, but we know that numbers are very important. He made it the 4th in a list of 10. You can consider that if you wrote a list of 10 rules for your kids, the top 5 might be more important to you. This is speculation, but when you look at the first commandment it is not hard to find this as a possible conclusion. The Sabbath also finds it’s roots in the very first pages of Scripture in Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” In verse 3 God states that the seventh day is made holy. The Hebrew word for “holy” is “qadash” which means sanctified or set apart. Hypothetically, if keeping the Sabbath day was not listed in the 10 Commandments, a simple reading of Scripture should convict us to keep the 7th day holy on the basic premise that God himself set apart the 7th day as holy and He rested. GOD rested. Did you catch that? GOD! So why do we think we should not rest.
We live in a world where we can hardly catch our breath. We over commit, over produce, over work, and flat out over heat. In this case we have desperately over-stepped our boundaries. God doesn’t need to rest. He is God. He gives us a great example to follow by allowing us to rest. He wants us to rest. Observing the Sabbath is not a burden it is a blessing. Consider the first 5 commands: love God above all, make no idols or images, honor His name, rest one day a week, and honor your parents. When these rules are followed there are blessings to be had. MAJOR blessings. We have somehow decided as a people group that we should not murder, commit adultery, steal, or lie but outside of that everything is fair game. God is not a god of confusion but harmony. He did not randomly create this world and he certainly did not arbitrarily decide on the 10 Commandments nor did he place them in a haphazard order.
The main passage that is pointed to in the New Testament that have allowed Christians the ability to look at the Sabbath as something we do not need to observe is Colossians 2:16-17. The passage states, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” To understand this verse we need to look at its context. There was a lot going on in the church of Colossae in regard to the Old Covenant Laws. Paul wrote this letter to expose the heresy that was going on there and to ultimately stop it in its tracks. This church was involved in all sorts of doctrinal problems such as deceptive philosophy, holding on to human traditions, food restrictions, keeping of feast days and the Sabbath, angel worship, pride, circumcision, and several other elements that are considered heresies. The passage in question is calling out one such area. We must, however, not think that Paul is saying you should not keep the Sabbath, but rather look at it in a different light. Even in regard to the festival days or the new moons. He states these are a “shadow of the things to come.” Many people interpret this to mean a shadow that comes before Christ and his sacrifice at the cross. Certainly, this is true, however Christ is not finished and we are living in the time between two prophetic rashes, one when Jesus lived, and one when the end times come. There are major prophecies which substance still belongs to Jesus and will be happening in the future.
This has to do with understanding the meaning of both our rest now from the bondage of sin as well as our eternal rest that will happen in the furure. To define the Feast Days and the Sabbath as a shadow is to understand that a shadow is but an outline, a glimpse of a man before he actually passes by just as a prophecy foretells things to come. Prophecy is God’s fingerprint and is immensely important to our understanding of God’s grand plan. Please follow as I outline the significance of Feast Days and the Sabbath as briefly as possible.
The festival days all point specifically to prophetic events. There are seven Moedim or Feast/Festival Days which are God’s appointments with his people. In order they are the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the day after Passover), the Feast of First Fruits (the 3rd day from Passover), Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashana), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Four of these happen in the Springtime and have already been fulfilled. At the Passover, Jesus was crucified, which signifies Jesus as our Great Deliverer redeeming us out of slavery just as Moses did for the Israelites from Egypt. Jesus was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread which symbolizes purity. Leaven is a sign of death and decay as well as sin. He was resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits, and is the first of the firstfruits to be raised from the dead to eternal life. The Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost which commemorates the giving of the Torah through Moses on Mount Sinai and yet we now have the fullness of the Law written on our hearts by the Author Himself who lives inside us, the Holy Spirit.
Here is where it gets really fascinating if what I just outlined was not fascinating enough. Please note, these are simply my speculation based on my own study and since the rapture clearly has not happened yet, this is only speculation. Three of the festivals/feast days have not yet been fulfilled. Because the festivals, moons, and Sabbath are described as a “shadow of the things to come” we need to determine what the “things to come” are specifically. Knowing what we know about the appointments God made with his people and which ones have already been fulfilled will help us understand the Sabbath better. The three that need to be fulfilled are the Fall Festivals: the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashana), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). The final things that we, as Christians, are waiting for, that have yet to happen are the rapture, Christ’s triumphant return, and the 1,000 year reign. They all line up perfectly, in order, with each solidly signifying each respective item. The Feast of Trumpets signifies the final trumpet and the wedding feast where Christ takes up his bride, the Feast of Atonement is also considered Judgement Day, and the Feast of Tabernacles which is a thanksgiving feast in which we will celebrate the harvest of God and is considered a highly jubilant time.
When you study these appointments you will see God’s plan for us to focus on Him and his mercy and his eternal perspective rather than how the people of the church of Colossae were trying to make it a legality of keeping these days or observing the Sabbath. They were missing the point altogether. The Sabbath as well as the final three Feast Days are things we should be celebrating and looking to with glee and unabated anticipation. Hebrews 4:1-13 talks about “entering His rest” and references Genesis 2. This is why it is so important to celebrate the Sabbath rather than look at it as a restriction on our weekly routine. Let’s take a look at the full passage.
“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” ~ Hebrews 4:1-13 ESV
This passage in Hebrews 4 is talking about 3 things at once. First, since it opens with the word “Therefore” it is following the discussion in chapter 3 where it references the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and due to their disobedience were unable to enter into the rest God promised them. Second, it references God resting on the 7th day as a sign of a covenant between Him and his people (that includes us today). Third it references our promised rest through salvation and eternal life. There is so much symbolism and meaning surrounding the Sabbath as it pertains to our own salvation I am in awe at how blind some are to its importance. By simply celebrating, honoring, and setting apart a day in our week as a day of rest by reflecting on God and giving it to Him allows us the tremendous blessing of growing, learning, knowing, and understanding Him more. Allow this day to be something your spirit longs for and protects.
Let’s begin by simply shifting our perspective on our “day of rest.” What did God intend it for and how should we observe it? Let’s start by thinking of it as a celebration of our salvation, a blessing to our spirit, and a privilege by which we have been granted access to His thrown. By observing it we gain a great gift from God by growing in His grace and truth. By observing it we give thanks to God for our salvation and our future rest in eternal life. By celebrating it we give honor to the One who put this perfect plan in place for us to be a part of.
With all this in mind I would like to encourage you to simply start. Start by deciding on a day of the week that will be your Sabbath celebration. There is nothing in Scripture that mandates which day you celebrate your Sabbath on. Many modern Christians hold to a Sunday Sabbath. We work 5 days at a job, on Saturday we do chores and other errands, and on Sunday we take the entire day off and enjoy fellowship at church and at home with family. Others view Saturday as their Sabbath as they view Sunday as the actual first day of the week giving God the first part of their week through Sunday worship. This is fine too. Many others hold Monday as their Sabbath. If you work in ministry, then you will work through the entire weekend and would need your day of rest to be on a weekday, whatever day that may be. Don’t stress over the day, but do pick one and make it a day that is consistent.
Once you have chosen a day of the week, start considering things you may do on a day of celebration, rest and rejuvenation. The Israelites became great at nit-picking everything, again sticking to the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. What things do you not consider work? Spending time with family. Going to the beach. Reading a good book. While these are all restful things and important to rejuvenation, let us not forget the reason we celebrate our salvation. It is Jesus! We need to consider doing things that would bless and glorify Him. Use your Sabbath to study His Word, teach your children the gospel, serve at a homeless shelter, care for your neighbor by having a conversation on your patio. There are all sorts of things you can do in honor of your salvation. Pray for an extended time on the Sabbath. Go street witnessing or perhaps go door to door in your neighborhood and simply ask those who actually open their door if you can pray for them about something this week. You will be surprised at how much these things will refresh and rejuvenate your soul. When your perspective shifts to understanding this as a celebration of your salvation and your eternal life to come, your motives and your joy will shift about keeping the Sabbath.